Why Bill Nye’s answer to “Do you believe in God?” is concise, but also distracting

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Earlier today science educator and scientist Bill Nye, best known for his children’s science program Bill Nye the Science Guy back in the ’90s, was interviewed by the Huffington Post. He was asked a series of questions, of which came from fans and those listening in. One question in particular, however, stood out from the rest – Do you believe in God?

I love Bill’s response, but then also find myself somewhat confused by his apparent backtracking soon after. He answered the question, “Do you believe in God?,” quite clearly in only one word – “No.” He then proceeds by stating, “But you can’t actually KNOW whether or not there’s a God,” which is also true. But then he states that the best term to describe him would be Agnostic.

The reason I find this to be backtracking on Bill Nye’s part is because of the fact that he already answered the question as best as possible – a quick and simple ‘No.’ Meaning, he’s an atheist. To then state the obvious that no one could possibly know for sure whether or not there’s actually a God is a bit irrelevant, just as saying you’re an Agnostic is quite irrelevant.

Understand, the question asked to Bill was whether he BELIEVED in God, not whether he KNEW if God existed. This was clearly a belief question, not a knowledge question. Fact of the matter is that the vast majority of atheists are also agnostics, but is simply too irrelevant of a term to care about. Of course we don’t KNOW if God exists or not, but our DISBELIEF in a God is the result of the complete lack of evidence of any God whatsoever.

In my opinion, Bill should’ve just stopped after he said ‘No.’ (I also highly recommend reading my other blog post which goes into this topic further, “Atheism, Agnosticism, and the Religious Notion of Creation/Resurrection“)

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. No, he doesn’t believe in God. No, he doesn’t know God does not exist. Therefore, he’s agnostic. That’s the way it works.

    1. B.J. Murphy says:

      No, agnosticism is nothing more than the acceptance of the fact that you don’t know whether or not a God exists, whereas atheism is nothing more than the disbelief in God due to lack of evidence. Both agnosticism and atheism are not antithetical from one another.

  2. So Atheism is unscientific? Because scientifically speaking, you don’t disbelieve in something due to lack of evidence. It seems to me like atheists are strictly speaking emotional dis-believers, and intellectual agnostics. Perhaps also he was accurately expressing his emotions, that he feels he disbelieves in god, but intellectually feels agnostic, having both emotional reactions at the same time. In such a case, by expanding his answer he would have been accurately expressing his dual emotional/intellectual beliefs.

    1. B.J. Murphy says:

      I don’t believe you really understand the meaning of “scientific,” here. Science operates based on evidence, and when there’s a lack of evidence of something, there’s no need to recognize that something. In other words, to believe in something which attains no evidence whatsoever is both irrational and anti-science. Atheism is nothing more than the disbelief in Gods due to their complete lack of evidence. That is not, by any means, equivalent to saying they’re then “unscientific.”

  3. There’s a huge difference between disbelief and non-belief, or at least that is the distinction I was going for. Disbelief is active rejection. Non-belief is mere lack of belief. Scientifically, you have non-belief. Emotionally, many atheists have disbelief. The definitions are not exact enough to really pin this down of course. So there is a big difference between active emotional rejection of god, and mere lack of belief in god. Active rejection is justified but not strictly scientific.

    1. B.J. Murphy says:

      No offense, but I believe you simply made this statement up – “Disbelief is active rejection. Non-belief is mere lack of belief.” Reason being because the prefix ‘dis’, which is applied in the belief question of ‘belief or disbelief’, has different meanings altogether. It’s a very loosely defined prefix.

      In some cases it’s equivalent to ‘non’, ‘not’, or ‘a lack of’, such as the terms disbelief, dissimilar, and disinterest. There’s also disconnect, which is to indicate a ‘reversal’. Simply saying that disbelief is an “active rejection” of something and not equivalent to “non-belief,” is an argument heavily relied on semantics.

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